WHO To Review Booster Need As Omicron Spreads

With ample vaccine supplies, India could begin inoculating those under 18 as well as administer third doses to front-line health care workers, the elderly and those at high risk since they got their first shots in early 2021, Kiran Mazumdar Shaw, the founder and chair of Biocon Ltd. -- one of India’s largest drugmakers -- told Bloomberg on Thursday.

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“We need a booster policy for sure," she said. “I really don’t know what’s holding it up -- it’s got nothing to do with vaccine availability."

The heavily mutated and highly transmissible variant, which was discovered within India’s borders earlier this month, has already led to 358 infections. Now many, including Shaw, are asking that the country follow others’ lead by offering third doses to its population of almost 1.4 billion, as well as include children in the immunization program as schools reopen. 

Elsewhere, Japan has announced plans to accelerate the rollout of boosters and the UK has set a year-end deadline to offer all adults a third dose. Israel is even experimenting with a fourth Covid shot.

Recent studies show a third dose of AstraZeneca Plc’s vaccine -- which accounts for nearly 90% of doses administered in India -- significantly boosted neutralizing antibodies against omicron while immunity from two shots started waning after three months. The Indian Medical Association, which represents physicians, has urged the government to provide additional doses to front-line workers and individuals with compromised immune systems. 

While India has deployed more than 1.4 billion shots, only 41% of its population has been fully inoculated, according to Bloomberg’s Vaccine Tracker. That shortfall has been partly pinned on some remaining hesitancy, along with the fact that India has yet to start vaccinating people under 18.

As some cities, including New Delhi and Mumbai, begin to register a rising numbers of infections, many Indian states are also moving to reimpose restrictions on Christmas and New Year’s Eve celebrations and gatherings.

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